Art of City Building 2020 – Session 3: Inclusive Placemaking & Development

As part of the Art of City Building 2020 conference, we invited Andy Fillmore, Paul MacKinnon, Rodney Small, Jay Pitter, Albus Brooks, Uytae Lee, and Kimberly Driggins to discuss inclusive placemaking and development.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Engagement must be meaningful

Rodney Small hails from Halifax’s North End, a historically Black neighbourhood undergoing the pressures of gentrification. Small spoke about One North End (O.N.E.), a collective of community leaders dedicated to integrating marginalized voices into the planning process. He calls for the need to create “brave spaces”, settings which allow members of the community to truly speak their mind. This meaningful engagement has resulted in a concept plan for the vacant St. Patrick’s Alexandra School site that is rooted in the needs of the local Black community.

2. “Placemaking is personal”

The planning process calls on planners to be objective, but outcomes will have intimate consequences for the people who ultimately inhabit a space. Jay Pitter calls on the need for “ethical rule breaking.” Rather than ask for permission, placemakers must often move more quickly to action than bureaucracies will allow for. Pitter also stresses that the concept of ‘empowerment’ can be fraught, ignoring the reality that people are inherently powerful. When communities are mobilized, they move faster than bureaucracies.

3. Rebuilding cities is holy work

Albus Brooks invokes the concept of Shalom for rebuilders of the American city. He argues that city-building is holy, and seeks restoration, repair and inclusive prosperity. Brooks details the racist policies underlying the foundation of American cities. The economic uplifting of marginalized communities must go beyond providing entry-level jobs and foster the building of Black and Brown wealth. Inclusive wealth creation and social mobility go hand in hand.

4. The attitudes of today are informed by the biases of the past

Uytae Lee tells the story of Vancouver’s missing middle housing. The zoning ordinance of today’s Vancouver remain virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1930. The creation of single-family residential areas was as much about keeping certain people out as it was about preserving character and built form. According to Lee, in order to create more inclusive cities it helps to identify what exclusion looks like physically and culturally.

5. Focus on people instead of buildings

Kimberly Driggins calls on city builders to recognize their blind spots. Planners, architects and urban designers focus on built form and function, but addressing the challenges facing communities requires more than the skill sets these professions offer. Driggins encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing in experts from fields not traditionally part of the planning spectrum. By bringing in a diverse range of perspectives, innovative thinking can result in out-of-the-box solutions.